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There’s a Reason it’s Cheap: A Review of Thanksgiving Dinner at "Hometown Buffet"
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Although I eat healthy and watch how many calories go into my body, Thanksgiving has always been a day to indulge in gustatory passions. This was one of the few times that the holiday neither put us abroad nor granted us an invite with friends and family. So my partner and I decided to try a feast at a restaurant.
Enough eateries offered Thanksgiving meals at $50 a plate and above. In my mind, the only thing that would justify that amount would be a free pet bird. Since no such gift was forthcoming from any of the expensive buffets, we settled on the more reasonable $13.99 all-you-can-eat option at Hometown Buffet, with drinks at $1.50 extra. We knew what to expect because we’d had good experiences there with their ribs and sausages.
We went to the closest East Anaheim, California branch, although the franchise boasts eateries in all states, sometimes under different names like Ryan’s or Old Country Buffet. Typical for the restaurant, this location boasted high ceilings and well-arranged tables and booths fronting salad, carving, entry and dessert stations. Though the buffet was well-attended, it was far from full, allowing the buss staff to keep the environment presentable and to clear tables quickly.
The centerpiece of this Thanksgiving feast was the turkey, cheerfully attended to by a carver. The dish looked nothing like any bird I’d ever seen. It consisted of an oblong chunk a little bigger than a basketball covered in caramel-colored skin that showed no remains of any limbs. The interior meat had a smooth, even, white and dry texture.
I passed on this unappetizing selection in favor of the roast beef and the steak, which showed more pleasing exteriors. The former’s moist, glistening skin blanketed a juicy interior, while the latter was marked with dark stripes of a grill. I asked for slices of fat, knowing these would be the tastiest part of the beef. Unfortunately, both choices proved tasteless and dry.
The pumpkin pie’s shrunken and chalky appearance repelled me and there was no trace of any cranberry sauce. Only two Thanksgiving selections proved delicious. The candied yams and the stuffing revealed nice textures and good taste. However, I wondered where the honey was in the flavorless cornbread. The jalapeno cornbread tasted better with just a hint of the pepper.
The generally flavorless buffet, which included fish filets, pizza, roast and fried chicken, meat loaf and garlic bread, did have a few standouts.
- The salad fixings were fresh, with crisp vegetables and ripe fruits.
- Covered in golden, crispy skin, the fried chicken showed a juicy interior.
- The turtle brownies tasted gooey and good, and I topped them with dollops of sweet frozen vanilla yogurt. My partner enjoyed the soft bread pudding, as well as the delicious hot fudge sundae cake.
Unfortunately, our favorite pork ribs, polish sausage and sauerkraut, and spare ribs, were nowhere in sight.
Despite the low prices and large quantities, Hometown Buffet was not any kind of a value for Thanksgiving. Its selections left us both with a hunger that could only be satisfied by cooking another meal at home, and we even went to another restaurant for dessert. The experienced has permanently soured us on the franchise and we won’t be returning for any future meals.
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